January 23, 2007 - Welcome to IGN's weekly countdown of the exceptional, fascinating, and absurd: something we like to call Top 10 Tuesday. Every week we'll feature the top ten games, characters, fashion statements or whatever else we can think of that in some way relates to gaming and its history. And just because it's called Top 10 Tuesday doesn't mean it's always going to be a list of the best -- we like to razz on stuff as much as we like to praise it. From counting down the best consoles ever to revealing the worst use of fish heads in a videogame, this is where it's at.
This week's topic: Books that should be games. You might have read hundreds of them; books for school, for work, for college, and hopefully for fun. But which books would make great games? That narrows things down right quick. Literature is usually about relationships between people, its takes the form of metaphorical experiences or historical events in historical settings. Take For Whom the Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway, or Camus's The Stranger. Not a whole lot happens in either book worth playing in a videogame. But if you look closely at games Prince of Persia and God of War, you'll see that folk tales (the Arabian Nights or Sinbad) and myths (Greek myths, for example) can be translated beautifully into games. We just need really imaginative and capable designers and technicians to think them into game form. Most of the time, it is publishers -- executives and business people, not designers -- who make the deals to pick up a property, license, book or movie, so here's a helping hand.
Oh, we know. This is cheap. This is the cheap way out. Making a videogame based on a book based on a videogame series. Clever. Yes, it is, far cleverer than making a game on SuperFudge by Judy Bloom or How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan. We already know Halo makes a great game, so why not make one based on the books that already came out? Of the four Halo books out thus far, why not make a game based on the prequel book, The Fall of Reach? It offered excellent ship battles, tons of fighting and action, and it explains how the Spartans came of age. Seems perfect, if you ask us.
Wow, a literary and prophetic book that would also work as a videogame. Well, what do you know. William Golding's Lord of the Flies tells a dark story of human nature in an adventurous manner, replete with societal factions, hunting, exploration, killing, fights, and moral tales. The island it takes place on is ambiguous enough to explore for any game designer, and while the fiction might be a little heavy to contend with, a smart, imaginative designer could do it. The real question is, would you have more than ending?
The theory goes that for anyone who loved the Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara is the next best thing. In an epic fantasy that pits good versus evil, Shea Ohmsford, an heir apparent blessed with the sole capability of using the all-powerful Sword of Shannara, is flung into a wildly imaginative fantasy world of gnomes, trolls, elves and dwarves where he must battle against the dark armies of the Warlock Lord to prevent evil from overtaking the world. A bit heavy handed, this one, but still, it's got the makings of one helluva game.
Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is perfect videogame material: it stars a young protagonist who travels through time to fight a in a thousand-year conflict. It's the story about how a young, reluctant man who rises up through the ranks while fighting in a battle that takes him far from home and then returns him home to find something very different. Space battle is always a big plus, and young able heroes who transform while serving duty always helps too. Easy to create sequels for, too, because of the vastness of space and all the possible enemies in it.
The Alienist is best suited as a survival horror game like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or an action-adventure game like Bethesda's Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Set in the 19th century in New York City, this unusual crime thriller stars a young Teddy Roosevelt and his special team who use unorthodox methods to catch their killers. Like in Condemned, you'll have to search out clues, solve a multi-victim killer case, and you start out with little to no evidence.
Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash was one of two cyberpunk novels (the other being William Gibson's Neuromancer) that really hit home in the early 1990s. Filled with high-tech geekery, drugs, and Ethernet-experiences of the most extraordinary kind, Snowcrash is a big, brash novel populated with likeable, knowable characters, and a story that's deep, chaotic, and filled with imaginative action. Of course, Hiro Protagonist wields a sword, a young punky skateboarder chick named YT is involved, there are robot dogs, and the story dives into Sumarian mythology, so it's not light on imagination, depth, or action.
Sure, it's old. You studied it in high school, and like any good English major, you assuredly studied it in college. Better yet, it's part of the English literature cannon, which makes it official stuffy stuff, but Gulliver's Travels is nonetheless great material. The rich set of stories starts with Gulliver's visit to the Lilliputians, where he is a massive giant (perfect for mini-games and puzzles to solve); he then finds himself in a land where he oh so small (similar mini-games and puzzles); he visits smart horses who corral stupid humanoids (yahoos), and visits a mathematical race who lives in the clouds. Come on. You know you want to stomp on Lilliputians!
Sid Meier created the greatest pirate game ever. It has the perfect engine, economic system, and balance of mini-game, RTS, and adventure aspects all in one game, Sid Meier's Pirates! So all, we need to do now is create particular adventures, chapters if you will, in the name of Horatio Hornblower. Surely, this man has a terrible name, and he sounds stuffy and English, but C.S. Forester's amazing adventures shouldn't be left alone in book or TV form. Forester's stories are perfect for a sequel to Pirates, or for a Legend of Zelda-type adventure game.
Solid Snake, Link, Max Payne, Maximo, Luke Skywalker, Kratos, all of these guys owe their swords, weapons, and armor to the original bad-ass adventurer and hero, Odysseus. Another classic English cannonized book, The Odyssey is ripe with potential. Sure God of War picked and chose what it wanted from this ancient Greek poem, but the actual story of Odysseus is a fantastic one. There is a giant Cyclops, a mystical isle with magical women, kingdoms to explore, tons of sea-based ship adventuring, great fighting and action scenes, and a women waiting at home, with a clever set of potential puzzles to solve and suitors to oust from your house. David Jaffe, you know you want to make this. Admit it!
It seems to us that few people have actually read this fantastic book, which just so happens to fall in the form of the now very popular trilogy format. But John Christopher's White Mountains tells the story of a trio of young boys who escape the mind-numbing process of capping, a coming of age process enforced by the aliens only known as the Tripods. The tripods are 20-story-tall mechanical alien structures that walk the Earth, controlling all aspects of life. You and your buddies escape to the White Mountains where you heard a small society humans have started a rebellion. The City of Gold and Lead and the Pool of Fire complete the series. This series is perfect for a videogame and one of our all-time favorites.
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